Documentation: Protecting your team and project

The focal point of project management is getting stuff done. Getting projects completed under budget, on time, and within scope. That is the cake of project management. The icing is documentation.

When it comes to closing out a project, questions may arise. Who did what when? Why did this cost so much? Who said two people could perform that work? Only one day was allotted for that activity. Why does the invoice state three days?

All of these complications seem to pop up when the bill comes due, and it is not what they expected. People start to analyze every detail trying to determine the root cause for delays or overages.

Documentation becomes important during these disputes. Who said you could replace the oven for $700? The owner and here is the email stating as such. Why were two people used for the installation? Because the situation called for two people and here are the pictures to prove it.

So, how can a project manager undertake documentation in a better manner?

Make documentation a priority

Make documentation a scheduled activity that needs to get done. Every Tuesday afternoon, you update your documentation. Sit down, send the emails, take the notes and review. The upfront work makes the closing that much easier.

You have the owner approval email stating that you can move forward at this cost under those circumstances. You have the vendor voicemail stating the shipment will not be in until next week delaying the project because of a fault on their end.

Every phone call gets a follow-up email to confirm what was said during the conversation. Texts never get deleted. Screenshots get stored. Voicemails downloaded. All communication, especially any with a source who is known to be difficult, gets tracked, pinned, labeled, and so on. Getting into good practice now means all this can be done swiftly and it will save days of argument and stress later on.

Prioritizing documentation brings it to the forefront of you and your team’s minds – priorities signal importance. If documentation is a priority in your organization and your team, the importance of it can never be overstressed. All it takes is someone, once, to dispute a cost, and if you do not have the communication stating differently, then documentation will prove to be a nightmare.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Some people do not learn their lesson until they have been fooled for decades.

Make documentation accessible

Shared email accounts, folders, or a Dropbox account are examples of ways to make it easy for multiple users to update documentation. Rather than everyone bombarding everyone else or your inbox with updates, team members can access the documentation folder and update it themselves.

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